The City of Indian Wells was named for an old Cahuilla Indian water hole that was a major water source for local area tribes. The well appears to have been built around 1850 and shows up on early state and railroad maps. After gold was discovered in the Colorado River in 1863, the well served as a watering point for prospectors, pioneers and stage line passengers along the famous Bradshaw Trail. There are recorded references to stopping for water at the “Indian Well.”
The Southern Pacific Railroad line that traveled through Coachella Valley also passed through the future site of Indian Wells. In 1870, as both rail and state traffic grew, a more efficient well was constructed by the County of Riverside. The new well was located approximately 100 feet south of the abandoned Native American village that had grown up around the original well. Through the early twentieth century, the new well served thousands of travelers in addition to the area’s first permanent residents. Those first settlers began residing in the area in the late 1800s and a post office was soon established. By the late 1910s, Indian Wells was becoming known as a residential area.
The date growing industry was also established around this same time, and by the 1920s Indian Wells was a thriving community. The town saw another growth spurt in the 1950s when Eldorado Country Club and the Indian Wells Country Club and Golf Course opened their doors.
In 1957 the first property owners association was established and ten years later, a petition was filed with the state by the Citizens for the Incorporation of Indian Wells. Approximately 285 voters registered for the first city election in June of 1967. The voters overwhelmingly voted to incorporate the area, creating California’s 400th city. Around this time the city also became a lure for celebrities and other famous personalities. For example, Hollywood entertainer and Indian Wells hotel owner Desi Arnaz was one of the developers of Indian Wells Country Club and Golf Course, and President Dwight D. Eisenhower so appreciated the area that he designated it as his winter residence. Indian Wells’ prestigious golf and tennis tournaments were also a magnet for some of the biggest names in the country.
Elected officials, including early developer and mayor Pete Peterson, established policies to maintain the city primarily as a residential community. Over the next few years, infrastructure was built to support the thriving town and its growing population.
In the 1970s and 1980s, Indian Wells welcomed the Balboa Bay Club/Indian Wells, Desert Horizons Country Club and the city-owned Golf Resort at Indian Wells. Other developments included the conversion of the former Eldorado Polo Grounds into world-famous golf courses at the Vintage Club, the establishment of the Living Desert Botanical Gardens and Zoo and the construction of the Civic Center.
The 1990s and 2000s saw concentration on infrastructure including construction of walking and bicycling paths, the under grounding of utilities and the construction of the over-crossing on Fred Waring Drive at the Whitewater Channel. Continued expansion during this time resulted in the transformation of the former Erawan Garden Hotel into the charming Miramonte Resort and Spa. The four major hotel properties in Indian Wells, the Miramonte, the Hyatt Grand Champions, the Renaissance Esmeralda and Indian Wells Resort Hotel, generate more than 60 percent of the Indian Wells operating budget. The Indian Wells Golf Resort currently sports two newly designed 18-hole championship courses and a magnificent new 55,000-square-foot clubhouse, the IW Club, for the enjoyment of both residents and visitors.
In the late 1990s, the city annexed 387 acres of land in its sphere of influence and the Indian Wells Tennis Garden was constructed. A world renowned tennis tournament, currently known as the BNP Paribas Open, is held during the month of March and attracts large crowds who flock to Indian Wells to watch the best players in the world.
The community has been recognized as one of the U.S. cities with the highest national incomes and is well known for its philanthropy and support of important causes in the desert. The population in Indian Wells has grown to approximately 5,200 residents and nearly doubles in size during the winter months.